Beautiful at the sentence level, Pollard’s Delphi deftly captured the weird, stagnant time of the early covid-19 pandemic through the first year. Her depiction of the strangeness of everyday life is lovely: the fear but especially the monotony. The main character had been researching divination methods of the ancient world prior to the pandemic; various forms of divination, ancient and modern, frame the short chapters. The methods are sometimes directly discussed or even used by the character to gain some semblance of control, but at other times, the chapter header appears only in an oblique nod: a flight of birds, a television unwatched. Taking a wider lens, the story is largely interior and for large stretches very little happens (though in an interesting way). The main character, her husband, and her son tackle isolation and conflict and the pressure to just go along with extended family’s risk assessments (whether stricter or looser); they take risks to connect with friends and coworkers that often turn out fine. There’s a flurry of the high-stakes plot near the end – even foreshadowed, the introduction of the conflict felt rather sudden, and the resolution arrived so abruptly that I turned the page expecting a denouement to find the acknowledgments page instead. But I’m sure I’ll be thinking about this book for a while.
Delphi by Clare Pollard, (List Price: $26.00, Avid Reader Press, 9781982197896, August 2022)
Reviewed by Ginger Kautz, Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, North Carolina